Blockchain and Virtual Reality—A Heavenly Merger?

[Ed Note : The following post has been authored by guest contributor Davor Gasparevic. As Davor puts it, he is a writing virtuoso with several years of experience across a wide range of online industries, and has established himself as a crucial contributor for several online businesses and startups.]

At first glance, the convergence of Virtual Reality (VR) with Blockchain might seem like the most unnatural merger in technological history. On one hand, you have two fast-rising superstar platforms that both fascinate and capture the imagination of millions, but on the other, the two technologies started as completely disparate in terms of their aims and scopes.  After all, blockchain started out as a decentralized ledger system for tracking cryptocurrency, and VR was developed for entertainment purposes. Combining them and creating something truly unprecedented might be seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

However, companies such as VibeHub are already making it possible for individuals to buy and sell a variety of VR-related experiences. This means that the future is likely to witness even more exciting mergers like that of Blockchain and VR.

As always, the devil is in the details of combining a decentralized monetary unit with an intuitive gaming interface. Hardware and VR headsets such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are becoming easily affordable so we can expect that a merger of VR and Blockchain technology will play an important role in the near future. For instance, VibeHub has plans to combine a dating app with VR, and it’s likely that blockchain will play a role in tracking and payment features connected to this and other such immersive experiences.

Examples of VR platforms utilizing Blockchain. 

Decentraland

Several companies currently seek to create monetized VR content that can also be bought and sold between independent users. Currently, the most popular is Decentraland; a place where users can create their own virtual property, buy and sell parcels of property, develop them and profit from the ‘improvement’ of said property.

It sounds like the VR equivalent of Monopoly, except the money is real and tracked.

People can buy parcels of land in this VR world, and a permanent record of ownership is created by the Ethereum blockchain. This has, naturally, caused some people to speculate wildly on the price of these parcels appreciating significantly in the future and so they’ve bought them hand-over-fist. However, owners can develop these parcels to include businesses, or shopping centers, concert halls, casinos, ball parks and movie theaters.

If VR technology improves, aspiring VR/blockchain entrepreneurs could soon find themselves the owner of parcels of land that others will visit. Visitors will also pay for the content built upon the land – for instance, watching a movie or a concert or purchasing something (tangible or otherwise) from a VR shopping mall through Blockchain could take escapism to new levels.

Even though Decentraland properties and other intangibles don’t exist in the same way that material things do, the monetary aspect is something investors can grasp. It is important to note that such a merger will not diminish the scope of either technology. Cryptocurrency isn’t limited to use in the VR landscape; it can also be used to purchase real, tangible goods and services that can be used to the owner’s advantage, whether for enjoyment or financial gain. Likewise, VR isn’t limited only to those who use cryptocurrency. Hardware, VR headsets, and games are currently bought and sold using a variety of common payment methods, i.e. cash, credit cards, etc. This isn’t likely to change.

Vibehub

Another company merging blockchain and VR is Vibehub. Vibehub captures performances of musicians, public figures and others to provide users with a unique, immersive experience. From music to education, Vibehub provides users with the ability to interact with anyone from these areas while, also allowing the performers to create their own content (and monetize that content as well).

Vibehub sellers earn payments in “VIBE” (or ERC 20 tokens), which are tradable on other cryptocurrency platforms and usable on the Vibehub platform.

Bounties 

Bounties is a platform for video games that uses blockchain (Bountie Coins) for users to purchase games, upgrades, head to head matchups with other users, tournament participation fees, and other merchandise. The winners of these matches and/or tournaments, whether individual, dual or entire squads earn additional Bountie Coins for future purchases.

Players can also earn coins based on achievements, leaderboard rankings (for an individual game over a specified period of time), referrals and the occasional promo SWAG. Bountie Coins are transferable to other cryptocurrencies. Interestingly, Bountie currently handles more than 50 % of the global gaming community.

ViTokens

A natural merger of VR and blockchain makes use of ViTokens, used in a place called the ViMarket—a marketing platform for buying/selling 3D content. Real estate agents can use ViTokens in the marketplace to offer clients VR walkthroughs of potential real estate purchases. Buyers and sellers are no longer separated by physical distances; they only need their VR headset.

While real estate represents a logical use of VR/blockchain, ViMarket strives to create an entire marketplace for VR commerce, thereby making it both unique and revolutionary.

Is the Merger limited to Gaming or Buying and Selling of VR via Blockchain? 

While the examples above illustrate new, exciting ways to market VR experiences and utilize blockchain technology, there is much more to explore. After all, it’s possible to enjoy VR via any money platform without blockchain entering into the equation. Now that blockchain is being used to track more than monetary transactions, additional factors are coming into play.

What are the Implications of Merging Blockchain with VR?

Blockchain technology provides a means for distributing digital information while simultaneously preventing it from being copied. In the VR world, this means greater security. Valuable virtual objects can be protected using the same technology that protects virtual currency. In gaming, for example, rare items and weapons are subject to hacking and duplication. Blockchain technology prevents this and in doing so, helps to maintain a virtual object’s tangible value, whether it is part of a game or if it’s something else entirely – virtual concert tickets, for example.

There’s more, however. Blockchain can be used to verify identity anywhere in the virtual world – preventing theft, keeping fake users from spreading false information, and promoting originality.

Can Blockchain help limit threats associated with VR?

Virtual reality may have been designed with fun in mind, but it’s not always used for positive purposes. For example, VR can be used to create fake news. In one famous instance, researchers at the University of Washington were able to develop an algorithm that converted audio clips into artificial videos of someone speaking the same words. They used it, along with images and sound bytes of former President Barack Obama, to create a completely fake speech. This is of course only an example of how fake news could be created, but it illustrates the ease with which very realistic, highly detrimental fake news can be created.

Several platforms are using blockchains to promote authenticity in the content creation sphere, mainly by creating tamper-proof tokens that track the creative process and act as incentive for accurate publishing. If fake news is created, the token is removed as a form of tangible punishment. The entire community is able to see that the content creator has lost their token and isn’t to be trusted. Because most content creators want to protect their reputations, this type of blockchain implementation offers great potential towards creating a news atmosphere with authenticity and trust at the fore. When implemented, this technology helps to weed fake news from real content, helping to prevent the damage and social divisions it causes.

Some Opportunities Associated with Blockchain and VR

While the blockchain / VR merge is still gaining traction, many exciting opportunities are emerging.  VR can be used to train students, particularly for dangerous jobs that require practice, while blockchain can provide authentication for certification purposes.

Travel experiences can be enhanced via VR, as can other experiences that are typically enjoyed in person: Sporting events, live shows and concerts are a few more examples. You might think about blockchain and its connection with cryptocurrency here, and you’d be right; however, there’s more to the story. Blockchain can also be used to prevent ticket duplication, so only authenticated ticket holders may attend these events. This ensures that all transactions are valid, and that revenue from ticket sales goes only to the venues, entertainers, and others who are actually entitled to it.

Besides authentication and security, blockchain provides opportunities for companies that wish to create income via microtransactions (usually defined as transactions under $10.) Current money platforms must pay engineers to handle security, leading to higher transaction fees that make microtransactions far less profitable. For example, Visa typically charges a 1-3% transaction fee, while PayPal’s transaction fees average 3-4%. Cryptocurrency transactions fees may be as small as a fraction of a cent. While this might not seem like a big deal, all those microtransactions can quickly add up, creating impressive revenue for platforms that support them. As it turns out, many VR gaming companies employ microtransactions by selling items within games. Blockchain can help reduce the costs associated with the same. This is just one more example of how the two technologies can intersect with one another.

Keeping in minds its diverse uses, blockchain is of great value for its ability to assure originality while promoting an atmosphere of accountability and addressing the issue of manipulation, which is rampant not only within the realm of VR, but also in the general online world. It isn’t stored in a single, vulnerable database; instead, it is stored a shared database without a central, hack-able location. All records are verifiable, and any successful (though highly unlikely) override of the network would mean instant devaluation. According to Don and Alex Tapscott, the authors of 2016’s “Blockchain Revolution”, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.

Thus, Blockchain and virtual reality both represent stand-alone, cutting edge technologies that have almost unlimited potential. Combine them in new and unexpected ways, and the sky’s the limit.

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